Last night, right before sitting down to dinner, I did something I rarely ever do. I answered the phone even though the caller ID clearly identified the caller as “Marketing Firm” (602-889-3656). I’ve been dodging calls from this particular marketing firm for over a week and I was anxious to give them a piece of my mind. I was curious to find out what part of the “do not call list” they didn’t understand?
To my surprise, the marketing firm was calling on behalf of Charter Communications. I’ve been a happy DirectTV subscriber for years, but recently signed up for Charter cable after moving into an apartment for a few months while my home is being renovated.
“We understand that you’ve recently cancelled your Charter cable, we’d like to know what the reason is. Was it too expensive?”
That’s when my head nearly exploded. My life with Charter cable was brief and torturous. It lasted all of seven days before I returned the box and cancelled all but my internet access. And now they’re calling me right before dinner to ask why I cancelled my service?! If they’d only listened to my complaints while I was still a subscriber they’d already have that information.
During my week with Charter cable, I called support on several occasions to attempt to resolve serious problems with my Charter DVR — a Scientific Atlanta model that must have been a rebranded DuroSport. When I finally indicated the problems were so serious that I was going to cancel my service, Charter support wasn’t interested.
Now that I actually have cancelled my service they won’t leave me alone.
I started to explain to the marketing firm that the price of Charter’s service had nothing to do with it. At this point I wouldn’t have Charter Cable even if it was free.
I was in the middle of explaining the many reasons why Charter cable sucks, when the lady from the marketing firm made it clear that she wasn’t really interested, and hung up.
That’s too bad, because if she’d stayed on the line she might have actually learned something about why Charter’s cable service doesn’t meet the most basic expectations of the modern media consumer. That seems like the sort of information that Charter’s marketing firm might find useful.
My biggest problem with Charter involves the company’s DVR offering. Cable without a DVR is simply not worth having. After seven years of living with TiVo there’s no turning back. Our family viewing habits have been irrevocably changed.
Having cable without a DVR is like having water without a drinking glass. You can stick your head under the faucet and hope for the best, but really, what’s the point. The difference, of course, is that you need water to live. I can easily live without Charter cable.
Charter’s DVR is worse than no DVR at all. It’s a DVR that leaves you wondering if you really recorded that episode of Lost. During my admittedly brief testing period this DVR missed 3 out of every 4 programs it was scheduled to record. At some point it’s easier to just watch live TV, but that’s something I’m not going to do again in my lifetime.
Charter’s customer service is hopeless. While other companies have outsourced phone support to India, Charter seems to have outsourced support to a state prison system. After numerous calls to Charter’s support line I’m positive that I was speaking with inmates on death row. These are guys (yes, they were all guys) who don’t even seem to know what a DVR is. Worse yet, they don’t care. They sound like they’ve had the life sucked out of them while they wait out their final days wondering what their last meal is going to be.
I could go on, but I won’t bore you with the details about how I was double charged during my initial order, the problems I had with the installer, or how Charter’s other marketing firm calls me nearly every day to see if I’d like to sign up for phone service (because, obviously, Charter’s the kind of company you can count on if you ever need to dial 911).
Charter is operating as if cable companies still have a monopoly. While technically they do (as indicated by the franchise fee on my monthly bill — amazingly, consumers still get taxed for this kind of monopoly) these days there’s plenty of competition for delivery of video content.
I’m happy to spend the next three months consuming media from the huge number of alternate distribution sources available to me. Periodically, I’ll be reporting on my experience here on Medialoper. So far, the early results have been good. Just last week a shadowy figure dropped an unmarked DVD on our doorstep. It turned out to be the final two episodes of Torchwood.
A couple weeks without Charter cable and we’re already ahead on one of our favorite shows.